Ebook review – Essential guide to B & W Photography

If you are a person who wants to make wonderful Black and White Photographs and many of your attempts proved to be futile, this book is a must for you. Of course – who does not wish to make great Black and white photographs? This book starts with a clear understanding about Black and White images.

As Scott Kelby once said – “The simplest black and white conversion is to remove saturation and boost contrast”. Yes, he said it is the simplest way. However, not all the conversion is going to be good at its first attempt. You may not aware what is happening to the colours. Possibilities are there you will end up making a dull, normal black and white photograph!

The book’s author David J. Nightingale, an experienced photographer, nailed down all the fundamentals of photography from Tonal ranges to Contrast, RAW files to ETTR, EV to Metering.

After the fundamental sections namely – The Aesthetics of Black & White photography, Equipment and shooting Black & White, David states about the conversion methods, why you should not use the default conversion method given in the software and what it does exactly to your image while converting. The software just takes the brightness level of a given pixel and converts it to a gray scale equivalent. In the next chapter, David explains about few other ways of making black and white photographs in Photoshop Channel mixing, Calculation method and Blending methods. In the end of this section, he talks about different plugins available for Black and white conversion from Silver Efex pro, Topaz and DxO lab in detail from its interface and what one offers. Also the author mentioned his personal favourite methods as well.

In the next section – Adjusting tonal range, Balance and Contrast, he explains about the single most powerful tool in Photoshop “Curves”. Adjusting the tonal range means shifting the original tonal range to what you desire via the curve tool. With the curves tool in place, you can adjust all the tonal ranges to its extreme without losing detail aka clipping. He further explains about the Basic S-curves, the baseline, altering the mid tones and how to do selective adjustments to a particular portion of the image using “Selective adjustments using Curves and Masks”.

Later, he explained about Creative vignettes aka Selective Vignettes – Vignettes been explained in detail here, starting from how it affects the viewer’s perception and the way it leads the eye and ends with how to make specific vignettes according to your photograph.

David made a separate section to cover Black and White Portraiture – Whoa; it is an interesting decision to add one dedicated section for portraiture alone. A section you would most probably love very much, since who does not want to make a striking portrait! David starts with the difference and importance between colour and B & W portraits, what kind of portraits would work with B & W and what won’t?

He clearly classifies the difference between different methods of converting one image into B & W and its drawbacks. For instance, why applying of red filter generically to all images will not work, or with Channel mixer or with Black and White conversion tool for that matter. He also clearly mentioned on how to bring out the details of the face and to brighten the eyes in the portrait. Why eyes are important in a portrait? He mentioned “Not only are the eyes the window to the soul, they can also be key to a successful portrait, but unless they are well lit they can often detract from an otherwise successful image – normally because they appear too dark in relation to the rest of the person’s features.”

The final section – “Monochromatic toning techniques” where David explains about the different methods of adding tone to your B & W images. He starts from the Black and White tool, Hue/Saturation tool, using Photo filters; using Selective colour tool, using Curves tool, and using Gradient Map tool. All of them explained in detail so that you can precisely tone your image as you might have envisaged to either your Whites alone or Blacks alone or to the mid tones alone or to the whole of your image. The important question is why you want to apply a tone to your beautiful striking B & W photograph. It is only to further enhance your image, as the sepia can bring a nostalgic feel about that image, a light blue tone will bring out a warm and industrial feel and so on.

The conclusion part is so striking and interesting that David made all the facts clear, I agree with all of his words. Hope you too will find this e-book helpful, in not only making striking Black and White Photographs, a better photographer as too.

This e-book is filled up all the way with necessary screenshots, interesting tips and tricks in a toned box, which will save you many time and energy. And more importantly this e-book comes with a separate recipe book which explains 10 different type of photographs and how exactly David converted it into a powerful Black and white photograph with all necessary illustrations and screenshots. He added both the original image and the final image after all the processing steps executed.

A word of caution – If you are using Photoshop as your primary editing software, you would love this book, but if you have recently switched to Lightroom as your primary editing software, this book helps you a little. Just thought of reminding you, but nevertheless there are some fundamentals about the filters, plugins, curves which I found very worthy. I hope that you might also feel the same, who knows. Grab one here and don’t forget to comment below how did you feel after reading the book.

Cheers and Happy Photographing.

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Inevitable personalities

Sally Mann

Why I like her, because of one photograph she made, the most erotic I have ever seen. None of the nude photographs can come close to this photograph in sense of erotic feeling it creates in a male human’s mind.

Sally mann

The wet cloth, the stickiness of the cloth with the body, a hand with three fingers in the frame which holds the body on the right top of the photograph (obviously male hand), the cleavage, the shrinkage in the cloth due to wetness, the tight crop of the photograph – if you look again there are no space left around the body in the frame, everything made this particular photograph as an outstanding one. Though she made many nude kid photographs and she is controversial too in that regard, this one stands out in her portfolio and one of my favorite.

Steve Mc Curry

One of the well-known personality in photography and without talking about him, compositional topics would never get complete (leave Henri-Cartier at this moment). The below image is one of my most favorite in his gallery.

Steve Mc curry

Two bullock carts parked adjacent to a wall and an another bullock cart about to be parked, the bull shall be untied from the cart in few moments and the bull appears like it is watching the elder woman who is appears to be having a hump as his. The elder woman is walking away from the frame with the help of her walking stick, her left leg stepping forward and her whole weight have been supported by her right leg. All the three legs are visible to the viewer, if you watch again these three legs matches with the three legs of the bull (deliberately avoided the other leg of the bull inside the frame, either while capturing or post capture) is simply sheer brilliance.

Talking about the other features of the photograph would be colour and the overall mood. The green colour door has been complimented by the red colour interior finish inside the right side cart, may be perfect coincidence but it adds value to the photograph. The mood here is slightly esoteric, because of the noise – due to low light ISO boost or deliberate post capture addition, either way it adds value to the photograph. If you look again the photograph,it is underexposed by almost a stop, which again perfect combo with the mood here.

And some interesting things about the master, Steve knows India better than an average Indian knows India, yes he travelled to India 82 times till date and an another interesting thing is he did not locked himself in Black & White images which people tend to give lot of explanations. He took very few photographs in B&W.

 

Michael Freeman.

Couple of months back, I accidentally found his work in internet and are highly impressive. He wrote several books including The Photographer’s eye, The photographer’s mind and I happen to go through those books in a book fair here in Chennai, I have never come across such kind of books, which talks about composition, how a small point/line/spot/anything in any photograph is perceived by human brain with diagrammatic explanations.

Micahel Freeman

The above photograph have been etched in my mind from his work. The first bull from the viewer is looking down and the next one watching straight, but both their horns have placed in such a way that it forms a continuous vertical wavy pattern. If you look at the first bull’s neck where it ends and reaches the hump, from there on the herdsman’s hand takes the curve up and completes itself by keeping his hand on his head. This is the interesting part; the herdsman’s hand and the second bull’s horn bend are somehow parallel to each other and create a balance in the photograph. And the photograph being in Black & White makes all sense together, the first bull’s neck in black colour and herdsman’s shirt being in white colour creates this as a compelling photograph.

After watching different photographs from several masters and reading different books about photography, my conclusion towards a good photograph would be “There cannot be a set of exhaustive compositional rules to make a good photograph, since a unique and good photograph will come with its own rules which may or may not exist before”.

Kindly note all the above three photographs have taken from their websites.